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Star Wars: The Old Republic gets a launch date

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Electronic Arts really wants to screw up your last minute Christmas shopping this year.

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The Old Republic (Bioware/LucasArts)

After months (or years, even) of anticipation, the company has finally unveiled the launch date for Star Wars: The Old Republic — and it's a bit of a head-scratcher.

The World of Warcraft competitor will hit shelves Dec. 20 in the U.S. and Dec. 22 in Europe, both very unusual choices for a major game launch. Typically, publishers who want to take advantage of the holiday rush make a point to have their games out by the end of November. Failing that, they usually opt for early January, when the crowd thins out a bit.

But EA has been telegraphing an unusual strategy for The Old Republic for quite a while now. In order to avoid the crushing crowds that so typically overwhelm the servers of a massively-multiplayer online game on launch day, the company has said it will limit the number of copies available both physically and digitally at first to allow for a manageable launch.

That's a strategy that has had a few eager fans muttering that developer BioWare might have drifted to the Dark Side.

There's good news for Padawans who pre-order the game, though. EA said those players would get early access to the game and be able to start playing before Dec. 20.

Pricing is about what you'd expect. The first 30 days are free, followed by a $14.99 per month charge. Three-month subscriptions will run $41.97 and six-month packages will cost $77.94, both bringing down the per-month price slightly.

Set thousands of years before Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker worked out their family issues, The Old Republic will let players join either the Galactic Republic or evil Sith Empire and take part in land and space battles over several well-known worlds in the Star Wars universe, including Tatooine, Alderaan and Hoth. It will also attempt to infuse a storytelling element into the MMO genre, a gameplay style that has traditionally been more focused on questing and leveling-up as quickly as possible.

Previews for the game have been generally positive. But that launch date? No one seems to get it. Who knows, maybe that's when the Wookies celebrate Life Day this year.

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